Justin Dunning Joins Impressive Texas A&M Class + Three Other Whitehouse Players Sign With Colleges
WHITEHOUSE -- No news was good news for Texas A&M fans when it came to Justin Dunning.
Even as some of Dunning's potential college football teammates teetered during recruiting process, the 6-3, 190-pound Whitehouse safety remained solidly committed. His patience was rewarded. He signed into a strong 2015 recruiting class bound for College Station.
"We just had a couple of guys stick with the program and believe in what they were doing," Dunning said. "It all turned out for the best. It feels great. It's big. A lot of people wavered here and there and bad things were happening, but I just stayed firm. I believed in coach (Kevin) Sumlin and what we were going to do for the program.
"All of a sudden, I feel better."
Texas A&M landed two other critical pieces Wednesday. It received faxes from Gladewater defensive tackle Daylon Mack and the nation's consensus No. 1 senior high school quarterback, Allen's Kyler Murray.
Dunning received high accolades as well. He finished the 2014 season with 79 tackles and a team-best four interceptions. Prior to the start of the season, he helped guide Whitehouse to the Division I State 7-on-7 championship game right on the heels of attending The Opening as one of the nation's most well regarded players.
Texas A&M appeared to be putting together another strong recruiting class under Sumlin through the end of the summer, especially among the perceived top players in East Texas.
The Aggies' run hit its initial high point on July 9 when Murray committed to the program. He joined Mack and Cedar Hill receiver DaMarkus Lodge as an influential figure in the fold.
But the tone of the class soured in September when Lodge reopened his recruitment. Then Texas A&M dropped its first three games of October and finished the season with five losses in its final seven games.
Sumlin fired defensive coordinator Mark Snyder after the season.
That ultimately triggered Mack to fall out of the mix. He decommitted on Dec. 19 on the heels of highly recruited Mesquite Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson committing to Texas.
Furthermore, the Aggies had a tough time getting a read on Murray's intentions down the stretch.
Texas A&M was not able to recover Lodge -- the receiver signed with Mississippi -- but it hired away LSU defensive coordinator Billy Chavis on Dec. 31 and was able to pull Mack back to the table for discussions. The Gladewater star told ETSN.fm he actually silently recommitted to the coaching staff during an official visit in mid-January despite making no public announcement ahead of National Signing Day.
Murray remained loyal despite fears of a late switch.
Dunning also will be joined on campus by Newton defensive back Roney Elam, Lufkin offensive tackle Erick McCoy and Sulphur Springs athlete Larry Pryor.
"It's always fun having somebody that you know to go to school with," Dunning said. "Guys from your area, that's just fun."
The Whitehouse defensive back, who committed to the Aggies in November of 2013, could see action as early as this season.
"They say I have all the pieces to the puzzle," Dunning said. "It all depends on how much I know and how fast I can pick up the things. That will come with playing some."
That's how he sees the recruiting class as a whole.
"I feel like we have all the pieces to the puzzle," Dunning said. "We just have to put them together now."
Nate Brooks Signs With North Texas
Justin Dunning wasn't the only member of the Whitehouse secondary to sign Wednesday.
Cornerback Nate Brooks finally got to make it official with North Texas after a notable three-year varsity career.
"For me, it wasn't that tough," Brooks said. "I only had a few choices. I just chose where God wanted me to go and where I felt welcomed. That was UNT."
Dan McCarney and the Mean Green staff are optimistic about what they could get from the Whitehouse cornerback out of the box.
Brooks, who is 6-0 and about 150 pounds, could be thrust into action in his first season.
"They said if I gain enough weight when I get there that I might play on some special teams," he said. "I might play a little nickel."
North Texas' long-term plan for Brooks is to keep him at cornerback.
Brooks recorded 41 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups as a senior. Late in the year, he inherited the starting quarterback role and completed 62 of 92 pass attempts for 751 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions in addition to running for 289 yards and six scores.
He split time between cornerback and safety as a junior. Dunning was lost for the season in the second game of the 2013 season with a torn ACL.
Whitehouse advanced to the regional semifinal round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs and finished the year with a 12-1 record.
"I'm a little excited and a little nervous too," Brooks said. "The competition level is going to be better. But I'm ready to get there."
Jackson Allen Prepares For Move To Abilene
Jackson Allen will continue the recent tradition of Whitehouse quarterbacks in college football.
Patrick Mahomes' successor will play for McMurry University in Abilene, a Division II school.
"Coach (Adam) Cook was sending out my film and one day I got a text from a coach at McMurry," Allen said. "They really showed interest in me. I went to visit there and it was a great environment and great coaching staff. I can't wait to be a part of it."
Allen threw for 1,968 yards and 17 touchdowns to seven interceptions in about seven games worth of action. He completed 155 of 289 pass attempts.
McMurry competes in the Lone Star Conference. Allen will stay fairly local with regular conference games against Angelo State, Midwestern State, Tarleton State, Texas A&M-Commerce, Texas A&M-Kingsville and West Texas A&M.
"Abilene is a great place," Allen said. "It seems like a great community to be a part of for four years and a lot like Tyler. Plus you get to play football. That's a big bonus. They've shown a lot of interest in me and we're talking about the starting position."
Dominique Hollie Chooses Tyler Junior College
Whitehouse linebacker and running back Dominique Hollie will be on display in East Texas for at least one more season.
The big man elected to sign with Tyler Junior College to improve his play before testing the waters with Division I schools.
The junior college route worked for 2014 graduates Jake Parker and Coleman Patterson. Both players enrolled at Texas Tech in January and are now a part of the Red Raiders' football team.
"They told me to just play hard," Hollie said. "Hopefully, I'll have a good chance to go somewhere else. I picked TJC because it has a lot of benefits for me in the long run. I'll have a chance to still keep playing and getting stronger and better. It could give me the chance to move to a bigger school.
"TJC also has some things I'm really looking forward to. I love architecture and TJC has a big program."
Hollie recorded 74 tackles during his senior season, including five for loss, and was credited with two sacks. He smashed his way to 564 yards on 102 carries.
As a junior, Hollie gave Whitehouse new life with the game-winning touchdown in overtime against a pesky Arlington Seguin team in the opening round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs.
"TJC is looking at me more as a linebacker," Hollie said, "but we've talked about playing running back from time to time."